Adeyemo Identifies Four Economic Reform Priorities for Nigeria

•Commends Tinubu’s administration’s bold steps  

•Says unified FX rates essential to attracting foreign investments, declares reversing the policy will be worse

Dike Onwuamaeze and Vanessa Obioha

The government of the United States of America (USA) has enjoined Nigeria to achieve a stable naira, root out corruption, protect the integrity of Nigeria’s financial system and articulate a fiscal strategy that would release resources for investments into critical sectors of Nigerian economy.

These were identified as four economic reform priorities for Nigeria by the U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Wally Adeyemo, in an address he delivered yesterday, at the Lagos Business School (LBS), which was titled “U.S.- Nigeria Economic Relations: People, Entrepreneurship and Investment.”

Adeyemo, stated clearly that he was in the LBS to talk about how the United States could be a partner in accelerating progress on the economic reforms because a strong and prosperous Nigeria is also good for the United States of America.

Speaking on the four reform priorities, Adeyemo said, “Nigeria needs a stable naira” noting that, “unifying Nigeria’s foreign exchange rates will create the kind of macroeconomic stability that is essential to attracting foreign investment.”

“We commend the difficult steps your government has already taken to accomplish this goal. The path to unification is not easy, but going backwards would be even worse.

“Second, the (Nigeria’s) government needs to articulate and implement a fiscal strategy that will provide the resources to make critical investments. I recognise the decision to end fuel subsidies is hard for many Nigerian households, but it was an important early step to create resources the government can use to invest in physical and digital infrastructure, education, and a strong small business environment.

“The need for economic reform does not demand indifference to the pain caused by this transition. This is why partners like the World Bank and African Development Bank are committed to working with your government to provide resources and advice to help smooth this transition for the Nigerian people.

“The third factor for growth is a rooting out of corruption and the perception of corruption in the business environment. I know the Nigerian people are willing to make sacrifices in the service of progress but have a legitimate fear that corruption and mismanagement will dash their hopes that the benefits of these reforms will enrich the people rather than the powerful.

“Creating economic opportunity will require a government-driven effort that addresses these fears by shining a light on corruption, holding people accountable, and taking meaningful steps to improve the business climate.

“For example, Nigeria is a hotbed for digital entrepreneurship. Taking simple steps like moving government functions online, so Nigerians can apply for business licenses and visas using their smart phones and computers will help improve services and reduce opportunities for fees to go into pockets rather than government coffers.

“This new government also has the ability to fight skepticism by making reforms that will allow the Nigerian people to better understand how federal, state, and local resources are being used.

“Fourth, and finally, is protecting the integrity of Nigeria’s financial system. The cowardly kidnapper, corrupt official, and fraudster all are seeking to launder their money.

“Taking steps to make your banking system more secure will help reduce the ability of criminals, terrorists, and others to illicitly use the Nigerian financial system.”

He stated that addressing the reform priorities would provide the right macroeconomic framework that would make Nigeria a destination of choice for foreign direct investments.

According to him, “the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s ‘administration and the people I have met with – from students to entrepreneurs to major business leaders – all share a common understanding of the challenges and opportunities Nigeria faces. “The question now is how to forge a path forward that creates prosperity for the Nigerian people. I am here to say that the United States stands ready and eager to partner with the Nigerian people and government in your quest to build a better future.”

He also applauded the leadership of Tinubu’s administration for committing to work with the Financial Action Task Force to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing and assured that USA’s government, “stands ready to help work through these steps and challenges in financial institution supervision, implementing controls in high-risk sectors, and pursuing investigations and prosecutions.”

Adeyemo, also affirmed that President Joe Biden’s administration was committed to a strong U.S.-Nigeria relationship that was built on shared values and mutual benefit.

He added that Nigeria was at a critical moment where decisive actions by its government and the determination and shared effort of the Nigerian people could create the changes that are needed to unlock the unrealised opportunity of Africa’s most populous country.

“Nigeria’s greatest resource is not oil; it is the Nigerian people. Nigerians have built leading companies around the world like the Dangote Group, Globacom, and Zenith Bank.

“Nigerians have made significant contributions to culture from Wole Soyinka to Chinua Achebe. Nigerian music and films are heard and watched around the world, and I’m excited to tour Ogidi Studios this evening to see one of many places where this art is made,” he said. 

Adeyemo pointed out that over 40 million micro, small, and medium sized businesses in the country, which employ more than 80 per cent of Nigerians, represent the beating heart of the Nigerian economy. “In order for these businesses to thrive, they need government policy to go from being the problem to providing solutions,” he said.

He recalled his parents’ migration from Nigeria to the United States and said, “as a child of the diaspora, I am humbled to be standing here in front of you as the U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Treasury. More than four decades ago, my parents left a very different Nigeria to get an education in search of opportunity for their young family.

“They raised us with a deep and abiding love for Nigerian culture and the struggles of a people that fought to be free of colonialism and the yolk of dictatorship. A people filled with so much potential but with too few opportunities.

“In so many ways Nigeria is a different country than the one we left more than forty years ago, but progress on expanding economic opportunity has come more slowly than any of us hoped.”

In her welcome remarks, the Vice Chancellor of the Pan Atlantic University, Lagos, Prof. Enase Okonedo, said Adeyemo’s visit to the LBS was part of his extended visit to Nigeria.

Okonedo, said the LBS was noted for enabling conversations that inspire and drive progress, change polices and influence businesses in its economic environment.

“It is for this reason that this gathering is particularly relevant as we hope to see enhanced trade between the United States and Nigeria,” she said.

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